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Prison Break!

Updated: 3 days ago



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Trigger warning: abuse


There was a plan. It was a good plan. One *Lyn and her dad had formulated at a round table meeting. You see, being his first born daughter - in a family of five girls - all her firsts were his and all his firsts were hers. So when they sat across from each other at this meeting, pen and paper at hand, they worked out her life plan. She dreamt while he wrote: Study music for two years at the Conservatoire, get a Bachelor's degree in a music related field and finally a Masters degree. She was 18 then; having just completed high school so in his quick math, she would be done at 27 years. Unfortunately life is a sine wave and he did not get to see her journey unfold; his life cut short unexpectedly. Still, she pushed on with the memory of his voice behind her, urging her not to give up on her dream; and she made it upto her first degree. Then she met him. *Jonathan.


A young, nice-looking gentleman who took notice of her and spared no effort in pursuit of her heart and later her hand. A musician himself, he had skilled fingers that knew their way with musical instruments and she was the lead singer. Together, they served in the music ministry in church and created a world of song while at it. After two years of courtship they went ahead and tied the knot. It was a beautiful union. One that drew out envy from the eyes of many. To be young, God fearing and in love. Selah.


The bumps in their marriage however, came early. Whereas she had a stable job, he stopped working, went into full time ministry and they started to experience financial challenges. Because he was the head of the house, she had relinquished control of their finances to him. In the beginning, it worked. Disagreements over money were like rumble strips. They would gloss over them seamlessly. But with time and increased responsibilities, tension mounted and the bumps grew.


It was after the birth of their second child that the tide turned. She was on maternity leave and needed money for baby supplies. When she asked him, he said there was none. He had cleaned out the account. All they had was a lot of month at the end of the money. A discussion ensued that quickly deteriorated into a full on brawl. In an instance he was packing the children's clothes and trying to leave the house with them in the middle of the night. In a panic, she called his dad to intervene - which he did - and the children were settled back in their beds.


"Where were you taking the children at this hour?" She asked him later after calm had been restored. They were seated upright on their bed.


He retorted back in a rage and she can't remember what he said. Her memory was probably erased because a wrecking ball demolished what her and her parents had taken 25 years to build. She did not see it coming. If she did, she might have ducked. Like a raging bull, he turned on her. Pinned her to the bed and instead of using words, he used his fists to communicate. Lyn lost her voice that night. She did not scream. Shock and shame engulfed her in a tight embrace. Was this really happening to her? While their two month old baby lay in a cot beside their bed? When he was done, he threw her off the bed and she just sat there. Paralysed. Unable to mount a response. 

"Come back here and get into bed." He hissed. She obeyed while still in a trance. After she got in, he turned on her and had his way with her, then slept.


Life as she knew it, changed that night. The confidence she had built over the years was eroded in that one barbaric act. She wasn't even sure what exactly she had done wrong. The following morning she woke up and carried on with the day. Alive on the outside, cold on the inside. They had a meeting to attend together that they couldn't skip so they went. She was so out of it, the lady they were meeting noticed something was amiss. But she said nothing and excused herself to sit in the car while they concluded the agenda. When he got back, on the drive home he turned to her, "Get out!"

"Wh..why? I have no bus fare."

He drove to the ATM machine to get money then remembered there was none. Agitated, he decided to drop her home. Just before they got there, she found her voice. It was feeble but it was there.

"But why did you hit me?" She asked

"Why did I hit you? Why did I hit you? I have not even finished!"

A feeling of terror settled in her stomach when he said that. She quickly got off and went into the house to take care of her babies. 


While they napped, she sat on the floor and replayed the events of the previous night. Her sister who had passed by for a lunch date, found her in that trance like state and knew something was wrong. When she looked up to see her sister there, she allowed herself to feel her emotions and they twisted her insides. They bubbled out of her and what came out was the sound of pain and helplessness.


In a matter of hours, parents were at their home because of the events of the previous night. Jonathan too was called.

"Yes I beat her!" he retorted to a room full of elders when he was questioned, "but this is my house and these are in-house matters that will be settled as such." The tension in the room was thick with lengthy discussions between the parties. But they largely skirted around the issue and it didn't feel like it was handled. In fact she sat there hearing words like, 'provoke' and felt like it was implied she must have done something wrong. Her take home message that day was to behave better so that it wouldn't happen again. This plan was not in the round table meeting she had had with her dad.


The hands of the clock moved and they did not talk about it. Jonathan became distant and scary and she became a shell of her former self. A rule follower. She did everything he wanted to avoid conflict. When he left the house, she would exhale but in the evening her hands would curl into anxious fists. She would sweat in a panic as she ensured dinner was on the table by 6pm the way he liked. She made sure the children were bathed and fed and the house was in order. She lived like this for about three weeks until she was not able to function anymore. So she took the kids and ran away.


At first he did not try to find her. But when he finally did, it was to tell her, "If you have decided to leave, that's ok but take my kids to my mom's house." It was then that she realized he didn't want her. Used and discarded like an old toothbrush. So she stayed out for another three weeks and only met him at a wedding they had committed to perform at. After the performance, they spoke and even with the full knowledge that things had not changed much, she went back. Because she wanted it to work. She did not want a broken marriage or to be the reason her kids grew up without a father or a bad example to her younger sisters.

The blanket of terror had not left her, but she decided to give it another shot.


One Monday evening, she got home from work after he had arrived. She didn't think anything of it as she got in. When she greeted him however, he did not respond. " Would you like a cup of tea?" She offered.

No response.

So she went to the kitchen and made herself a cuppa. She had barely sipped it when the cup and its contents were snatched from her and smashed on the wall.


"Today you will know who the head of this house is."

"I am sorry for whatever I have done." She spoke back with terror in her eyes.

No sooner had the words left her lips than a slap landed on her face. He threw her to the ground and began to drag her to the children's room - all the while kicking and punching her. This time she screamt. Until two things happened. The baby woke up and joined in the screaming and a neighbour came to their door. Still he did not relent despite the terrified screams from their baby. 

"It's almost as if she knew something was wrong even if she was only six months old."


It is the neighbour's pounding on their door - and not the baby - that made him stop rolling the punches. He told her to go see who was at the door. She quickly grabbed the baby and went. The conversation between her and the neighbour was short and strained. "I am fine," she insisted, "the baby is just unwell. Please just go." And she excused herself. Back in the room Jonathan asked her, "Who was that and what did they want?"

"It was the neighbour. They heard the commotion and were concerned."

"Did you tell them that I was beating you?"

"No."

"Good". And he slept.


In the weeks, months and years that followed, he did not hit her again. He did worse. He intimidated her into a pulp. She could not function well at work and was mostly disoriented. She moved about like a seaweed dragged along the ocean floor. She did not speak of the abuse with anyone because of how it was 'handled' the last time. She withdrew and had days when thoughts of jumping in front of a bus consumed her. Her self esteem had been eroded until she didn't recognise daddy's little girl anymore. She felt utterly powerless and in a prison; one she entered of her own free will, locked the door and threw away the key.


"I repeatedly asked myself what to do so as not to anger him. I went along with all his wants and shied away from discussions that could create conflict."

She stopped attending family functions and only occasionally sneaked out to see her mom then go back home. 


For two years she lived like this. She would wake up on some mornings and forget; wake up happy by accident. Then she would remember and shudder. Until the final straw. She had done some work on the side, gotten some money and decided to buy beds for the kids. It was not a decision she came to alone. She had been asking him about it for months as they had both outgrown their cots. On the material day she asked him to go with her to the local carpenter to look at some designs. He tagged along but was not amused.


"Who do you think you are? Making such a decision without my input?"

In an effort to avoid public embarrassment she swallowed her words like a chunk of dry bed and simply said, "it's ok, let us leave." They each went their separate ways. It came as a shock then, when later that evening, after putting the children to bed he brought it up again.

In a swift move he grabbed and began to strangle her. She tried to fight back but she was no match for him. She faced him and looked into his eyes. They were cold and sullen. Removed from the situation as he squeezed harder and harder until she was sure that she was going to die.


Perception is altered by the fear of mortality. It was then that it hit her. The realisation that she might die and leave her children without a mother. Her heart broke. That a life that started out as a fulfilled dream, with so much promise came to this. That if this went on it was a hearse and not even an ambulance that would pick her from home. She doesn't know what or why but he stopped strangling her as suddenly as he started and even said he did not know what he was doing. But even though she had lost her voice, she resolved that day that she was going to leave. He had all but destroyed her soul, she would not allow him to destroy her body as well. It took two months from that day for her to actually walk out but when she did, she did not look back.


In those two months, her family found out about the continued abuse and had a series of family meetings in an effort for reconciliation but it failed. Some of their couple friends tried to help - nothing. The church she had grown up in and served in were the most disappointing. People whispered and treated her presence like an inconvenience. She was unsupported and stigmatised for being separated until she stopped going for a while.


"Intimate partner violence is rarely a one off. I had this wishful thinking that it would stop if we could talk about it. We never did. He never did."


She cannot minimise the support she received from her family, especially her sisters and their husbands. They were present for her children when she couldn't lift her head. The children had always been her reason to stay but now they were her reason to leave. She has been rebuilding since and at times it feels like she is swimming upstream against the tide but she is alive. Intimate partner violence is the place where dreams end and nightmares begin. She thanks God she woke up from the nightmare.


Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave even if you stumble a little on your way out the door."( author unknown)


As narrated to me by *Lyn who wishes to remain anonymous

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health concern affecting over 40% of married women in Kenya.


It is defined as actual or threatened psychological, physical or sexual harm by a current or former partner or spouse. sadly, it can happen to anyone - women, men, children, between spouses and even friends. No one is immune to domestic violence.


They often begin as verbal or emotional abuse but can get physical.


There are 3 types: Psychological, physical, sexual.


Domestic violence also often begins or increases during pregnancy and the postpartum period.


Risk factors are several and may include:

.female

.Age less than 24 years

.Witnessing or experiencing violence as a child

.History of depression/mental illness

.Couples with income, educational or job disparities

.Excessive jealousy/possessive behaviour etc


Health effects include:

.Headaches, backaches

.STI's and UTI's

.Chest pains and respiratory infections etc

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4 Comments


Lutawo Ouma
Lutawo Ouma
Jul 25, 2020

It’s never too early ..or too late... to walk away from Intimate Partner Violence.

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Wambui Kyama
Wambui Kyama
Jul 22, 2020

Warr! My heart broke when I read “... in the weeks, months, years...” so glad she made it out! Thank you for sharing your story. Many people feel alone in IPV but this is an encouragement that you can make it out and start again and it is ok.

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Wekesa Barasa
Wekesa Barasa
Jul 21, 2020

This still happens in the 21st century?.... I would basically walk away,.... As the man

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Woye.this is sad,intimate partner violence should be shunned in the strongest means possible. Am glad she had the strength to walk away.sending *Lyn love and light

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